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  CSPAN    Architecture    Series/Special.  

    August 11, 2013
    2:40 - 3:51am EDT  

2:40am
>> wow, first of all i would like to thank the entire area for inviting me to come speak to you. i mentioned this at an event yesterday, the last time i spoke it was in a side room and 25 people showed up. this is kind of overwhelming because we have 2500. i would also like to say hello to people watching on c-span. you're probably used to political debates, which is like watching paint dry. as architects, when we get to the point in the building when the paint is drying, that is exciting. we will diverge away from the political connotation and talk about communities. today i'm going to talk about our organization am a which matters a lot to me.
2:41am
it is about how architects see things. when you are in an area that has been by a natural disaster, people see no hope. when architects go there, they see an opportunity to change. they see an opportunity to resurrect the community and find ways where we can live as community members. it is this value we have, that can transform a nation and transform a profession from when the designs buildings, which we are seen as, to one that transforms communities. so when we look at an environment, this is just in new jersey, an architect will have a look, they will say, this is a wetland area. we have to reclaim this area. let's implement some natural vegetation, put in some transportation, have a beautiful place where people can gather. this is what architecture brings to an area we often overlook.
2:42am
it is this value we need to hold true to ourselves. so today the question i want to ask everybody, from within and from without the profession, what is the true value of architecture? i hope i'm able to answer that. back in 1999, it is amazing, we were talking last week, she was in my office, she is in the san francisco firm, she mentioned she had just been license, she finished architecture school. she mentioned, yes, i graduated high school at 12. that made me feel like, my goodness, the next generation is just going to go to the next level.
2:43am
there i was, and it i feel is funny to be in denver where a speech was made a number of years ago by a guy who said i was a skinny kid with a funny name and i was given an opportunity. i used to be a skinny kid. i still have a funny name. but i came to america with an idea, a dream. i grew up in a poor neighborhood in london. it is the area, not only did they invent the word hooliganism, they practiced it on a daily basis. i was five years old, i would run home and play with lego, i would try to reorganize the town to make it a place where people would feel good about living there. how can we create places? it was that the said i want to be an architect. so i find myself many years later in the united states working for firms, and that value of what architecture can do to improve people's lives and communities stuck with me.
2:44am
the first competition we did was for returning refugees in kosovo. the first person i called and the media i said, i am a 23- year-old kid, i have this idea, what do you think? he thought i was crazy. but sure enough, hundreds of architects said it might be crazy but we can make a difference. back then, we were running out of a studio in new york. it was just a couple of volunteers. we had a dream architects could make a difference by inputting the creative and professional services. fast-forward 15 years, we are currently working in 27 countries, responding to natural disaster areas and areas of blight and poverty.
2:45am
and on a local level, we have these local chapters. as you can see, we seem to be following the aia convention. we have a denver chapter, chicago chapter. all doing incredible work. matched with them are over 6800 professionals volunteering their time, representing the largest firm in the world, dedicated to making a difference in their communities. it is a magnificent body of work by these individuals. so our work has this global response and i will show much of that. what is really historic is the local response. we have denver, afh denver. [applause] we had an after-party last we hosted an open bar. there may be fewer than i hoped.
2:46am
what is amazing is they have not only designed incredible projects for communities in need, they funded it themselves. they have done kick starter campaigns. there is one designer they came up with a crazy mustache necklace you can go in disguise. she raised $3000 to help people in need by making mustaches. so right here in denver we have incredible designers giving back. our building, our headquarters is in san francisco. we have to practice what we preach, we are on the corner of eighth in san francisco. people see this as the heart of architecture for humanity. that is not the truth. the heart is its people. over 81 building professionals working around the world, hundreds of firms contributing, coming together in a multi- disciplinary team, providing design services.
2:47am
this is a very important point. this is not volunteer. this is not a friday built. this is taking the skills you learned, and bringing it to communities that have never imagined the idea of an architect, or an engineer coming to help. so to add on that, when you're giving opportunities to work and communities, you have an obligation to build. what makes architecture really incredible is we do not just a design solutions, we build them. when you build a solution, it is transformative. our commitment to these communities is to create a change through the environment. we also have to think about the future and the present, different projects we did a couple of years ago, one was a 60 foot catamaran made out of 16,000 plastic bottles. like coke and pepsi. the reason we did that, one is
2:48am
to raise awareness but the idea is, can we invent new materials out of waste product that can be strong materials so we can use them as a positive, to get net zero. let create the waste we are creating and using it as a strong material. that is what building research does. on the other end of the world, we are working in pakistan, one of the most dangerous areas in pakistan. flooding had displaced 3 million people. this is the power of the network. i got a phone call from the hunt -- clinton foundation thanking us for work we have been doing in pakistan, supporting their efforts. my first thought was, what? to be a great leader, you have to say, absolutely. it has been an honor to help you. the first thing i did was call
2:49am
our chapter in say what is going on? in the first few weeks they had helped clear out hundreds of homes had worked with a number of groups to build bamboo construction. these permanent homes are half the cost so it is remarkable that we got a grant to build three temporary villages. through this technology, developed by the first female architect in pakistan, an incredible individual, they built three villages. so part of that is about sustainability. when we talk about sustainability, it is not just about material energy use. it is about social and economic sustainability. we need to protect the cultural heritage. we can't go into community and say we are going to give you a titanium building. we have to understand the cultures and elements of sustainability. by ignoring the heritage, we are actually discrediting the
2:50am
desires and needs of the community. so we invent our architect. think of them as phd macgyver. they are incredibly smart but they can blowtorch like nobody's business. they are midcareer professionals, emerging professionals that have dedicated their lives. up here you see eric, who ran a haiti office, this is carry-on luggage that he did not get fined. anybody who can do that will get hired by me. so it is that entrepreneurial spirit. these are burmese architects using cell phone communication after the typhoon. an architect from hawaii decided not only to dedicated number of years of her life to rebuilding in india, she brought her entire family. she not only made a professional choice, she made a personal
2:51am
commitment to move over there. right now her and her family are in mongolia building incredible work, so part of the thing, i go back to samuel who once said you can't go back. when we start doing public service architecture, it is hard to say i am done with that one. you really understand that power. we partner with local professionals. that means we're not going going into a community and discrediting yokel engineers.-- local engineers. we partner with them. we make sure there is an architect of record and go through the process. because in this humanitarian world, we are that benchmark. people look to us to say, how do we build? there are some architects. what are the standard? so when we go when we are not just
2:52am
saying, but shelter over people because that will help our numbers or we say, how can we create the most relevant and effective structures that can be replicated throughout this area. that is a part of that process. we are not designing for these communities, we are designing with them. one of the greatest comments i got was in new orleans, she said, architects are like the wind beneath the wings. they allowed to soar. that is the power of architecture, working hand-in- hand with somebody and taking their dreams and realize it. the other part is we create jobs. we are a massive job creator. when you think about the fact we are not just repairing an area, we are generating an economic force. the great thing about being an architect, you work locally. we are not shipping in fema trailers and structures that have been built overseas. we are working directly with the community.
2:53am
and integrating craft, the beauty of craft. it is amazing the marriage between ethics and aesthetics. the most sustainable building in the world is the one that is loved. that is what we do best. it does not matter how many points you have, how much renewable energy you have on the building, unless somebody loves the building they are not going to take care of it. it is our responsibility to make sure we have the most beautiful structure that will be loved by that community. [applause] this is the only nerdy slide i'm going to show. this is an economic development plan where architects take a lead. we do not look at it as the donations, we talk about investments. by setting up a design studio locally, we bring in technical expertise. we marry that with construction
2:54am
capital and we develop all of the construction financing and contracting. part of architecture is not just to deliver services, but to do construction management. we take your ideas and we make them real. we make sure we hire locally, create jobs, it is part of an economic recovery act. it worked well in haiti. we could do it here. finally, this is what makes it magnificent. by having the community involved, they are so empowered, you can transform that ownership to local community leaders. this is biloxi, mississippi. an incredible architect helped lead recovery effort. he did not not say we are coming into rebuild your community, he said we are building with you. that is an economic development center.
2:55am
this is us in a nutshell. but the reality is, it is value. i will go through a bunch of projects and talk about value. what value do we bring. the value of safety. anybody who has lived in a tough neighborhood understands what safety brings, security brings. here we are. in the roughest neighborhood in south africa with the highest incident of murder, rape, violent crimes. working with an incredible unit which is violence prevention rather than saying we want to do a do good project, let's put it by the highway so a celebrity sponsor can drive in and cut a ribbon and go, they look at a tactical approach. figuring out the most dangerous areas and that is where we go.
2:56am
we do urban acupuncutre and we put in a magnificent building. we ended up in a park where women were raped and dumped for decades. across the street from the school, that is one the most dangerous places to be. we said that is where we are going to be and where will going to make change. working with architects, we work with the community to develop health thomas education -- health, education. we are funded by fifa. this is after the world cup. the sustainability was economic and cultural. we made sure we created jobs, the building was off the grid we involve local artists. 18,000 children have gone through this program. 200% increase in perceived safety.
2:57am
when somebody says, 16th street in denver is a safe area, they bring their kids. a massive decrease in murder in that area. using data that architecture and design can make an incredible difference to create safe places for people to live. on the other side of africa, we worked with a group bringing together tutu and tutsi children born after the genocide. imagine being born after that to know that is what happened. 800,000 people were killed. this is an incredible center. there are two games. it brings together different
2:58am
groups. there is the one in which there are no referees. they have to agree on all of the rules. they have to work together to go to conflict resolution. the other game which i really love is the gender equality game which is women account. -- count. [applause] incredible program. these are beautiful. as architects, no one says we borrow ideas. we borrow ideas. there's a little window that you can see right here that reflects the window they did. it's a tip of the hat of another great design impact. we have done 20 of these across the continent in the last two years that has helped over 250,000 children. whether it is health, education, conflict resolution. we did a skate park in
2:59am
kids study skateboarding. they realized that block by block, they could create peace by skating those streets. started with six kids. then 60, then 600. these kids are amazing. to go to the skate park, you have to do two hours of afterschool education both english and computer science and other classes. at the end of the first year, it turned out that 50% of the people were there to get the extra education. it is really interesting that kids know when they get access to things like this they take advantage of it. no time for this. thank you. i have this clock here. it is like an ominous clock. [laughter] it is funny, i did a talk a few years ago in chicago.
3:00am
this elderly lady, she looks like my grandmother came up to me. she gave a donation and said, i really love what you do. i was like, really? he is amazing. no, he just kept talking and talking and would not shut up. [laughter] ok, i get to the point. education is vital.
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